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What is a Charley horse cramp and how to deal with it?

Updated on July 1, 2010

What is a Charlie horse cramp and how to deal with it?


What is a Charlie horse cramp and how to deal with it?



When Americans (predominantly in Northern states) say “a Charlie horse” or “a Charlie horse cramp” they mean painful leg contusion which sometimes leads to severe muscle spasms. The rather widespread term is slang and dates back to late 1880s. In other parts of the world the cramp may be referred to as a “corky” or “corked thigh” - in Australia, or a “chopper”, “granddaddy”, or “dead leg” - in other English speaking countries. The German call it “Pferdekuss”, i.e. the horse's kiss. Usually these leg muscle disorders are triggered by a strong blow or a kick, excess exercise, lack of necessary elements in the organism, hormonal issues, and other. In the article we will talk about it all in more detail and will try to find out what is a Charlie horse cramp and how to deal with it.


The Charlie horse cramp actually can occur as a consequence of exorbitant exercise that overtax muscles, insufficient and non-diversified nutrition - and as a result the organism’s deprivation of some vital elements (calcium, potassium, and magnesium), medical treatment (side-effects of pills, shots, etc.), disorder in hormonal system, loss of body water (dehydration), immobility - little action tightens the muscles, as well as stresses, motor neuron disease, neuropathy, and pregnancy. If a person has had a heavy blow on one’s leg he or she is strongly recommended to refrain from physical exercises until bruises are completely healed.


At first medical experts maintained that these muscle cramps are caused by the acid (lactate) which is produced during muscle training. However, the recent researches made them tend more toward the conclusion that it is rather the muscle cell injuries that cause the trauma. Once it occurs the spot will swell up and get inflamed. The at-hand remedy can always be icing. The 24-hour tight bending may prevent cramps from persevering into spasms. Do not try to stretch the affected muscle – the tension may tear it. Professional massage and PNF physical therapy will be the right options. Charlie horse may last from a couple of hours up to a couple of days.


We have talked about what actually is a Charlie horse cramp and, let us now proceed to the “how to deal with” part. The most effective way to prevent relapses of Charlie horse is to work out a proper attitude towards eating, exercises and relaxation. Avoid stresses – positive disposition is always healing. You should consume about two liters of water per day and be decently active - not exhausting oneself. As concerning the well balanced nutrition, if you are a sportsman and regularly practice body building or other heavy physical training you need a personal instructor to prescribe the right diet for you. Nevertheless, Charlie horse occurs among general people as well so being aware of the necessary products in one’s nutrition - by all means - will be useful to everybody. Thus, you should regularly eat food rich in the following elements: calcium - cheese, yogurt, milk, fish, almonds, etc., potassium - potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, strawberries, cauliflower, cabbage, eggplant, etc., and magnesium - beans, nuts, peanuts, oysters, pumpkin, whole grain, etc. Of course it is highly preferable to get these elements from natural products however a seasonal usage of basic vitamins may also be a useful supplement sometimes.

What Causes a Charley Horse


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